Stories from Active Recovery

I’m a Physical Therapist, and This Is the One Thing People Get Wrong About Neck Pain

Tehrene Firman

Tehrene FirmanJanuary 3, 2020

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If you have a tight neck and shoulders, you probably only focus on the back of your body with stretches or a massage. But for true neck pain relief, you have to spend some time on the front of your body, too.

The most important muscles to stretch for neck pain relief are your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, according to Danielle Weis, DPT, a physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist at Spring Forward Physical Therapy. “These muscles are located in the chest and attach into the front of the shoulder. When they’re tight, they pull and tilt the shoulders forward and it feeds into that forward head, forward shoulder poor posture,” says Dr. Weis. “When the shoulders are positioned too far forward, it throws off the mechanics of the neck, shoulder girdle, and upper back.”

Once the shoulders return to their optimal position, your other muscles can finally relax and work at their proper length. And here’s how to stretch out the front of your body to find that relief.

How to stretch the front of your body for neck pain relief

To properly stretch your pecs and get rid of tightness and pain in your neck and shoulders, Dr. Weis recommends utilizing a doorway in your home:

  1. Stand in a doorway with one forearm supported against the frame, creating a 90 degree bend at the elbow and between the arm and trunk.
  2. Lean forward into the doorway and rotate the body away from the frame to create a stretch in the pecs and chest.

For even more relief, also stretch the scalenes, which are located at the front of the neck. “These muscles get tight when the head is positioned too far forward and they adaptively shorten,” says Dr. Weis. To stretch, tilt your head to one side and then lean your neck back and look up to feel a stretch at the front of the neck.

For full-body relief, yoga moves that feels like a massage:

Here’s a ballet dancer’s secret to ironing out the kinks in your neck. Speaking of your neck, here’s why one derm says you should be washing it—not just your face.

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